The Counter-Counterculture

Ah, to be young and Republican at Cal

Nearby, some of Gallais' BCR friends hand out the latest issue of the California Patriot, of which Gallais is the managing editor. The magazine has endorsed him for the election, and the student -- who usually favors jeans paired with either a Ralph Lauren polo or shirts emblazoned with the UC Berkeley logo -- is pictured on the back cover in a dark suit, smiling broadly. (Gallais is also known for sporting colorful socks featuring French cartoons.)

Students stream past, and he waits patiently. He's looking for familiar faces in the throng of passers-by, forgoing big signs and flashy campaign paraphernalia for the more personal approach. He's being selective, he says, because students are tired of receiving so much election literature. Quite wisely, he's chosen to address only the select set that he knows will be sympathetic to his Christian Republicanism.

Several minutes pass without a single flier leaving Gallais' hands. "I guess I'm not very popular," he jokes.

On Fridays, Gallais mans the BCR table, where he 
hopes to challenge liberals to a good debate.
James Sanders
On Fridays, Gallais mans the BCR table, where he hopes to challenge liberals to a good debate.
Rudmann, Irvin, and Kolin live in "Chilton House," 
BCR's unofficial headquarters.
James Sanders
Rudmann, Irvin, and Kolin live in "Chilton House," BCR's unofficial headquarters.

During his two years at UC Berkeley, Gallais has earned a reputation as one of the campus' most determined defenders of conservative politics. In addition to his roles within BCR and on the Patriot's editorial staff, he has also served as the Bay Area region vice chairman for the California College Republicans, a statewide organization. As such, he may be one of the most reviled -- or at least the most baffling -- figures at the school.

Being a vocal conservative on a campus that is among the most politically charged in the country, the school itself surrounded by a vibrant ultraliberal community, has proven challenging for some of Gallais' Republican buddies. But Gallais thrives on it. He's fueled by a passionate belief in the party's ideology and a sincere admiration for George W. Bush (he has a cardboard cutout of the president in his rented room at a frat house, and his friends joke that he has a "man crush"). Whenever the unrelenting liberalism of UC Berkeley wears on him, he says, he is fortified by his faith in God (he's an Evangelical Christian) and his love for this country (he'd like to become a naturalized citizen and join the military, not necessarily in that order).

"I really like having my views challenged," he explains. "I always enjoy debating whoever is on Sproul, either them giving me a hard time or me giving them a hard time. ... When we hold controversial activities ... in my opinion it's a lot of fun. Because you get people aware of an issue -- they get really mad! -- but the debate that goes on is very interesting and I enjoy them. You yell at me; I yell at them. It's awesome."

Born in Saint-Nom-la-Bretèche, a scenic suburb of Paris, Gallais moved with his parents and sister to St. Lambert, Canada, when he was about 10. After four years there, they all moved back to France briefly before relocating to the North Bay in 2000. In every town it was the same: current events and international politics discussed at the dinner table every night.

Gallais landed in California as a junior in high school. He was immediately swept up by the excitement of American politics, as the country prepared for the presidential election. He watched all of the debates with his father, who identifies as an independent. Together they weighed and dissected the issues, and though Gallais had considered himself a Democrat, Bush eventually won him over.

"When I came here, to me Clinton was the greatest president and the Republican Party was this evil machine," Gallais says.

But the second debate between the candidates changed everything. "I thought Bush won that debate; he did an outstanding job, and I really identified myself with what he had to say," Gallais says. "First, it was Bush himself. He's a man I really admire: his charisma, his personality, the fact that he really seemed a genuine candidate, not a politician. And his economic policies -- ever since I can remember, I've been outraged by the concept of welfare. Especially in France and Canada, welfare is very important. You have people who spend their entire life on welfare, and I just couldn't comprehend. I watched my dad leaving insanely early in the morning and coming home late at night, working his ass off, and his money was going to other people. That perspective was the first one to make me change."

Though he had switched to the Republican Party by the time he graduated from high school, Gallais insists that the decision to attend UC Berkeley was a no-brainer. "It has such a prestigious image abroad," he says. "I knew about the hippie movement, but I didn't know it would be such a liberal school."

Yet here he is, watching a group of Socialists sign up new members at a table nearby while he searches for someone -- anyone -- who'll be receptive to his campaign literature. After standing in the same position near Sather Gate for about an hour, Gallais decides to relocate and stops to talk to Carrie Holt, who's been distributing the California Patriot nearby.

"Some people say nasty things [as we pass out the magazine]," she reports. "Like, 'Sorry, I don't read fiction.' You just smile and nod, because if you let them think that they got to you, then they've won."

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